SAC RAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - Parts of California Attorney General Kamala Harris' legislative package targeting troubled homeowners will be heard by a legislative conference committee this week.

Harris introduced six bills this month that would protect homeowners facing foreclosure proceedings, a package she calls the "Homeowner Bill of Rights." Last week, Harris was scheduled to testify about two bills before the state Senate Banking and Finance Committee, but the bills were pulled by the committee chairman.

"There are more than 500,000 California homeowners in the foreclosure pipeline, and securing for them the protections of the Homeowner Bill of Rights is my central concern," she said.

"I am sure these reforms will receive thoughtful attention and discussion in the Legislative Conference Committee, which is why I support the Assembly Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem's decision to form it."

The package includes:

- Assembly Bill 2425/Senate Bill 1471, which would require creditors to provide a single point of contact to borrowers in the foreclosure process; require creditors to provide a dedicated email address, fax number and mailing address for borrowers to submit information requested; and impose a $10,000 civil penalty on the filing of "robo-signed" documents;

- AB 2314/SB 1472, which would prevent blight enforcement actions from being taken against new purchasers of blighted property for 60 days, provided that repairs are being made to the property; require banks that release liens on foreclosed property to inform local code enforcement agencies of the release so that demolition of blighted property can proceed; and increase fines against owners of blighted property from $1,000 to $5,000 per day, and allow the imposition of the costs of a receivership over blighted property to be imposed directly against the owner of blighted property;

- AB 2610/SB 1473, which would require purchasers of foreclosed homes to honor the terms of existing leases and give tenants at least 90 days notice before commencing eviction proceedings;

- AB 1763/SB 1474, which would authorize the attorney general to impanel a special grand jury for the purposes of investigating and indicting multi-jurisdictional financial crimes against the State;

- AB 1602/SB 1470, which would require lenders to prove to homeowners that they have a right to foreclose on the property, and would create a new Office of Homeowner Protection to aid borrowers; and

- AB 1950, which would impose a new $25 fee to be paid by servicers upon the recording of a notice of default. The fee would be deposited into a real estate fraud prosecution trust fund that would support the attorney general's efforts to deter, investigate and prosecute real estate fraud crimes, including the work of the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force.

Harris recently played a role in securing a nationwide $25 billion settlement with six financial institutions over their alleged improper foreclosure practices.

Of the $25 billion, California claimed the largest portion of the pot -- $18 billion.

Harris had departed from the negotiations in September, when the estimated relief for the state was estimated at $4 billion.

The attorney general, at the time, called the proposed deal "inadequate," and insisted on more relief for distressed homeowners, meaningful enforcement and the ability of state attorneys general to pursue investigations into misconduct.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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